On Slashdot today, there was a story about the Woz and his feelings about big software.A lot of the comments revolved around Woz not being relevant. "He designed sweet hardware 30 years ago, and now he's not even in the industry."
Here's the thing about that: Woz is brilliant. Beyond being a top notch engineer, he's a very smart guy in general (which is not something you can say about all engineers, that's for sure). For the last 30 years or so, he's been incredibly wealthy, and in a posistion to say and do anything he likes.
His interest seems to be technology and more specifically, the human interface.
This is a case of "Seeing the forest through the trees." Woz is more qualified than Dvorak to comment on things - Dvorak is a hack, he gets his paychecks through positive reviews. Even if all the products he looks at suck, he can't share that with the world. Jobs is limited by his shareholders, as is Gates and Balmer. Woz is free to use his brilliance as he sees fit.
Woz is absolutely right about the state of software. It's not designed to be easy to use. Instead, you have to "learn a new language" to use it. Think about a product you use all the time. Aren't half the buttons something you had to learn the meaning of? Were they all obvious? Does "Network Neighborhood" have any meaning if you don't understand the concept of a network?
I've found from experience that computers are a powerful tool to organize data, but that human beings tend to seriously flub the organization and are unable to use the built in tools to find that information. Its like taking all the paperwork in your office, removing all the staples/folders/etc, throwing it into a giant bin, mixing it around for a few hours, then trying to find a letter you wrote to a company three years ago. You just can't do it.
People tend to do really crazy stuff like name files "Letter.doc". Not particularily helpful. Then, when they try to find it by date, they open the file and save it, changing the file date. Also, not particularily helpful.
So then we install complex search tools that open up the document and look for keywords in the document - Google Desktop springs to mind. But most people don't understand how to search for things. It takes a lot of trial and error and experience.
The end result are some very frusterated users who don't know what they're doing, or what they did wrong in the first place. We have a wonderfully powerful tool that can store a lifetime of data, but we don't understand how to use it because it is too flexible and too complex.
I'm a big fan of the iTunes "Organize my music" system. Sure, it has it's flaws and it's still not all that simple, but at the very least it makes the file system easier to use. I click on a music file, and blam, iTunes copies it into my music folder and adds it to my collection. I don't have to know where the file is located to listen to it - I just open iTunes and it takes care of the rest.
My old Mac 512ke was awesome, and here's why: It used small floppy disks. The old skool, 720kb disks. You couldn't fit that many files on one. Say 10 or 20 documents. Easy to organize, cause you label what's on the disk physically on the outside. How many documents does a user produce per day? 3? 5? Maybe 65 floppies a year?
It made sense to average joe because it was PHYSICAL. If it isn't PHYSICAL it requires TRAINING. The more complex and flexible, the more training it requires and the harder it is for average joe to be competant.
I wonder to myself all the time why our computers have to be so easy to install and remove software from. We're in a web age now - we don't need to install software on a machine.
Make the computer inflexible - have it include a web browser and a few applications that don't change (maybe self patch). Don't let the user randomly install stuff without making it a REALLY BIG DEAL. Most people should not be installing software. EVER. Then have the computer force average joe to use an organization scheme (like a database with REQUIRED FIELDS). Make it easier for average joe to search the database and computers become more friendly.